It was Sunday, December 24th around 7:30 AM and my brother Joseph, my dog Daisy, and I were on our way to Florida. The purpose of the trip was to knock out nine or ten parks toward my goal of 60 new-to-me park activations in 2024. The trip was also designed to test my camping skills and adjust my equipment and set-up for future POTA camping trips. The first park on the itinerary was Olustee Battlefield Park (K-3642).
The drive to Olustee was straight forward: I-95 south to Jacksonville, then I-295 to I-10. We stopped at the Florida Welcome Center and snapped a quick picture despite the rain, then bundled ourselves back into the car and on our way.
Olustee Battlefield Park commemorates the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle. Florida was important to the Confederacy in the Civil War because of its material contributions. In fact, Florida was a vital contributor of beef and salt. The battle of Olustee was fought to repel a Union attempt to disrupt Florida’s food-producing supply routes and recruit African-American soldiers. In fact U.S. African-American troops took part in the battle including the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment featured in the movie “Glory”. A re-enactment of the battle at Olustee is held each February.
Joseph and I arrived at Olustee Battlefield Park under cloudy skies. Right after our arrival, a gentleman pulled up from the local area and began chatting with us. He owns some of the timber plantations in the surrounding area and was killing time at the park while a relative visited someone at the nearby prison.
I located a pine tree and installed the Tufteln EFRW antenna. Meanwhile, Daisy found a pine cone or two to deconstruct. It was nice to be at a location at which she could be off-leash and wander.
I began with 40 meters as usual but the noise on that band was horrendous – S7! So I moved to 20 meters figuring that would be quieter. NOPE! Again, S7! Well, shucks! I told myself to just call CQ and see what I could hear. Only the strongest calls broke through the noise and even then, I sometimes lost a hunter as the band appeared to be shifting. After twenty minutes on 20 meters, I switched to 17 meters hoping the noise might be better there. Nope – S7 AGAIN! I needed a few more contacts for a valid activation so I hung in there for five more minutes getting four contacts and then called it QRT.
What the heck could have caused such noise on all three bands I tried? There were power lines but I was nowhere near them. There were no other sources of noise I could see at the site. And then I remembered the nearby Baker Correctional Institution, the prison the gentleman’s relative was visiting. It was a large facility. Surely there was a lot of electric equipment with surveillance cameras, etc. That must have been the noise source.
It was time to move on. We drove secondary roads which took us through pine forests in the Osceola Wildlife Management Area and Gainesville, FL, home of the University of Florida. Continue reading A Journey Through Florida Begins